What is the Rainforest Garden?

Imagine strolling through an emerald jungle on a mahogany colored boardwalk and peering up into the treetops to see a diverse array of plants hanging from the trees like hanging gardens, as brightly colored birds mingle with a dazzling assortment of butterflies. Hummingbirds feed from the bromeliad's vibrant flower spikes while their water filled cups provide homes for bright green singing treefrogs. Reaching into a grove of bananas you pick a ripe one to go with the fresh passionfruit growing beside it. Looking past the huge gingers and alocasias, a gurgling stream beckons you to sit and watch fish swirl beneath floating lotus flowers while you drink a tea from lemongrass, mint and ginger that you harvested earlier in the morning. After dipping your feet in the water, you pull a fresh white towel out of a teak cabinet to dry off before sitting to read on your spa bench.
The romantic notion of the rainforest is quite different from it's reality. First and foremost, it would be extremely wet. When you're not pummeled by a deluge of water, it surrounds you in mist and stifling humidity so thick that explorers would find their flesh rotting off in the soupy air, accelerating the decay already started by parasitic insect's eggs laid beneath their skin. Mildew and mold appear quickly on buildings, and even concrete starts to decay and break down in the fecundity. The heat would be so unbearable that you could easily die of dehydration because all of your fluids would be lost to sweat (and possibly tears) despite being surrounded by water. While the plants and animals are diverse and stunning, many of them have all adapted to survive by being vicious in insidious ways, as every leaf, insect and microscopic organism pose more threats to your life than even the likes of leopards or crocodiles. Botflies cause huge boils in your flesh that eventually explode with maggots, while tiny fish called candiru in the Amazon river have the unspeakable habit of digging deep into the worst possible part of your body and lodging themselves with spines making removal only possible with surgery. Vines latch onto you with sharp fishhooks, making for a painful and slow journey.
All in all, wouldn't it be nice to make your own rainforest without all of the blood, sweat and tears? The good news is that since you don't really live in a rainforest, you're exempt from the parasites, disease, and rotting flesh! To recreate a rainforest, all you have to do is carefully choose which elements most closely resemble the real deal and arrange those elements using good design principles. One more thing: Ditch the peonies and roses. If you want to create the illusion of a distant paradise, avoid any plants that make you think "English cottage" or anything you could grow up north. While its a bit more of a stretch to replace a big sycamore or birch tree, you should at least find a way to mask its temperate ambiance with some vines, shrubs or closely planted broadleaved evergreen like a bottlebrush or wax myrtle.  Remember, use hardy trees for your overstory and use natives whenever possible!  The birds will thank you!

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